My dad turns 91 today, November 4. Election Day. (Pssst. Go Vote right after you get done reading this!)
I love my dad. I love him for all the reasons one would think I should. He’s been a minister for a long, long time, still preaches and gives communion to the “old folks”. He’s literally grown the Kingdom of the Lord by countless souls. Only God knows how many, and one day, when my father enters into heaven, he will, too. He will be greeted on the streets of gold by those who came before him, especially his twin brother, Uncle Rudy. I love him for this and I honor him for his dedication to his faith. I love how he loves his Bible.
I love him for the father he is to me and my sibs. I love how I can sit with him for hours and still find things to talk about, and laugh about, and yes, cry about. We were apart for about 20 years as I wrote in my blog called Daddy.
Once during that time, I had a dream. We were in this big place, and I had to climb a long winding staircase to reach his room. He was lying in the bed by himself, and the thin silver light from the moon shone through the window. I sat down on the bed, but he didn’t stir. I felt peaceful as I sat there watching him sleep and reached over to cover his hand with mine.
My dad has the most loving hands. Tools of the trade — hands that hold the sick, embrace those who need comforting, shake the hands of everyone who worships on every Sunday, holds the chalice as they commune.
They are hands of a loving dad, gently brushing away the hair from our eyes, or putting his two thumb nails together to try to squeeze a white head on our chins. He never used his hands in an angry way, only loving, unless you, of course, figure in the ultimate torture of those nails seeking out that white head on that innocent chin. But that is the worst of it, and always has been.
So, in my dream, I’m sitting there watching his pale face sleep — deeply peaceful. I start talking to him, because at the time, I hadn’t had much time to talk just the two of us. I told him about the kids, how Ricky hit the ball finally and how he is the star pitcher. I told him about Bethani, and her love for swimming, my little tadpole. I could tell in my dream that he heard me, a smile played around his mouth.
I began to cry a bit as I sat there remembering the many times he gave us his last dollar to treat the neighbor kids at the Dairy Mart, or when he held me in his arms after a heartbreaking break up with my first love, or when I was chosen to be a cheerleader over a beloved friend. I remember walking to the grocery in our small town and him hoisting a HUGE box of Kotex on his shoulder with me following at least six feet behind him trying to hide my embarrassment. I mean he didn’t need those Kotex, now did he? So who did? Yah. So embarrassing.
I smiled in the thin light of my dream as he tucked my hand in the crook of his arm and walked me down the aisle to my handsome groom.
And even though so many years and miles separated us, I leaned over and whispered the most honest thing a daughter could whisper in her father’s ear. “Dad, if I am only a fraction of the mother to my children, as you were the father to me, they will be truly blessed.” And big fat tears began to fall, and then it began to rain in my dream, soft light rain on me, on my sleeping father. It was like a cleansing that I’d never known before. I bent down to kiss my father’s sleeping cheek, and saw tears rolling slowly down his face.
Sometimes dreams tell a truth that our hearts just don’t know how to say.
Since that dream, my kids have grown up, gotten a Master’s Degree, Bachelor’s, and are good, beautiful people, that I think I didn’t mess up too badly. Dad and twinsie and I spend long hours together on the Jersey Shore where we visit him and his 92-year-old bride. And there is the thick fog of dementia crowding his bride’s mind, and this week he will be moving her to a place that can care for her in ways he no longer can. And I wish we could be there with him through this, but he taught us long ago that love knows no space or miles, only the murmurs of our hearts. We will get him through, and we will get our sweet Hedy through. And soon we will be together again.
Happy Birthday, Daddio.